Last week, President Trump visited with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office while allowing no U.S. press to witness the exchanges. Not only that, but Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (one of the key figures in the Michael Flynn scandal) was present in the room, and Trump has seen plenty of backlash over his lack of discretion. Not only was the White House tricked by the Russians into allowing their photographer into the Oval Office (into which he could have smuggled a surveillance device), but the Washington Post reports that Trump pulled a major no-no by revealing “highly classified” information to the Russians.
This news reportedly came to light after the White House realized that Trump shared information from a partner in “an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive” that U.S. allies aren’t aware of its details. Further, not many U.S. government officials are aware of the information, so would be evident who spread the word. The White House scrambled with calls to the CIA and NSA after realizing that this information (about moves to combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq) was not authorized to be shared with Russia:
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies
The CIA and NSA haven’t spoken on the matter, which apparently involved Trump volunteering information about U.S. military operations. The Washington Post notes that Trump holds the power to declassify information if he so chooses, so there may not be repercussions for his administration, but this move could damage the relationship with the aforementioned partner.
However, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was in the room. He has Trump’s back and says nothing happened:
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
Yet some officials aren’t buying McMaster’s defense, and they’re worried about Trump’s lack of discretion with sensitive information.
“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless, and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” Trump said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.